April 11, 2013
By Chelsea Einerwold, Assistant Communications Director
The 2012-13 Lobo skiing season was one of ups and downs that culminated with one of New Mexico's best all-around team performances of the year at the NCAA Championships held the second weekend in March. The Lobos brought home an individual title, earned by Joonas Rasanen in the men's slalom, and finished sixth overall to maintain its streak of 30-consecutive seasons of placing in the top-10 at nationals.
Head coach Fredrik Landstedt rates the season as "good," but notes that it wasn't an easy one as the Lobos were plagued by injury and sickness.
"It was a tough year," he said. "We had four or five people on the team that didn't ski -- scholarship athletes that didn't ski--because of injuries or sicknesses. Having all those people that coudn't race, or didn't race consistently, really hurt for the season because there were too few on the team to make up for it.
"It was good overall -- not necessarily the season we wanted to have, but we were a little thin."
Niess battled a lingering sickness all season and has decided to give up collegiate skiing. The senior was a three-year letterwinner for UNM and earned All-America honors as a freshman (2010) for placing seventh in the 10K classic race at NCAAs.
Brusletto redshirted last season due to a flare-up of a leg injury sustained pre-UNM racing days and, after competing in one RMISA event, was again dealing with a lot of pain. She finishes her career as a four-time All-American. She placed fourth in the slalom and sixth in the giant slalom at the 2010 NCAAs and in 2011, placed seventh in the slalom and eighth in the giant slalom.
Triendl, the 2012 RMISA Male Skier of the Year and 2012 RMISA Alpine MVP, placed in two RMISA events before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in early January. The native of Oberperfuss, Austria, earned All-America accolades last season for placing fifth in the giant slalom at nationals.
Sjur Prestsaeter and Anniken Bratlie were the other two 'Bos who battled injury/illness. Prestsaeter was able to compete at NCAAs, but he wasn't healthy most of the season. Anniken Bratlie redshirted the 2012-13 season due to a leg injury.
The Lobos placed as high as third in regular-season Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association competitions - with the podium finish coming at the first meet of the season, Colorado's Spencer Nelson Memorial Invite in January. UNM placed fourth in the remaining four invites and had one event win: a men's Alpine team victory at New Mexico's home meet the weekend of Feb. 9-10 in Red River. A positive for Landstedt and the Lobos was that they came together at the right time: the second weekend in March in Middlebury, Vt.
"I think the NCAAs overall was probably our best meet all year as a team," Landstedt said. "Everybody skied well and skied hard.
"The Alpine guys -- Joonas Rasanen definitely skied as well as he could've getting the win -- and Chris Acosta had awesome races. Michael Bansmer had a good GS and had a bit of bad luck in the slalom. On the women's side, Mateja Robnik had a pretty good slalom and Kate Williams and Mary Rachel Hostetter skied around where they were all year. "On the Nordic side, we had three people on the team who had their best races or as good as their best races all year at the NCAAs. Mats Rudin Resaland skied really well and Clara Chauvet and Christian Otto had their best races of the year.
Landstedt said what the Lobos lacked at the Big Dance was domination in a few events.
"It seems that to be up there in the top five (of the final standings), we really need some events where we score over 100 points and then we can afford to have a really bad event," he explained. Rasanen, a sophomore from Helinski, Finland, became the 26th individual national champion in New Mexico athletics history (all sports), and the 13th Lobo skier to accomplish such a feat.
Rasanen won the men's slalom race on March 8 and helped the Lobos post the second-best team score of that day with 169 points -- a performance that was instrumental in keeping UNM in the top six final standings. The 2013 NCAA Championships were hosted by Middlebury College, and included on event each day, March 6-9. Action began with the giant slalom and the Lobos were paced by Acosta who earned his fifth All-American honor with a fourth-place finish. The Alpiners tallied 144 points and were in sixth place after the opening day.
On the second day of nationals, Resaland finished runner-up in the men's 10K classic and helped the Lobos move up one spot in the standings to fifth place (280 points).
Day three was perhaps the most exciting day for New Mexico as Rasanen captured the men's slalom race. The sophomore was in third place after the first run as he posted a time of 48.09. The second run featured slips from many of the contenders and Rasanen took advantage, posting a solid second run in 50.87 for a total time of 1:38.96. The team held on to its fifth-place standing with 449 points.
Two other Lobos earned national honors that day as Acosta finished tied for eighth place with Colorado's Kasper Hietanen, and on the women's side, sophomore Mateja Robnik finished ninth.
New Mexico had one more All-American on the final day of competition as Resaland took sixth in the men's 20K mass-start freestyle race. New Mexico finished sixth overall with 576 points, getting edged by Dartmouth, which posted 594.
Colorado posted the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the NCAA Skiing Championships, shining in the Nordic mass start freestyle races to earn its 18th national title under NCAA jurisdiction and 19th total as the Buffalo women took the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) crown in 1982.
"You need some luck to be up there, it's close, the times were all so close," Landstedt said. "Chris Acosta was just two-tenths of a second from winning and he finished fourth (in the giant slalom).
"On the Nordic side, Mats was four seconds from winning the classical race and Christian was among ten guys within ten seconds in one race, so it gets very close and there are a lot of points at stake. To be up there, you really need people finishing in the top eight."
Goals for next season include having more bodies -- healthy bodies -- that can compete consistently. "We need to have six guys and six women on the Alpine side and five and five on the Nordic side," Landstedt said. "It's a goal to have people healthy and hopefully we'll have a little more luck there next year." New Mexico says so long and good luck to nine student-athletes who fulfilled their eligibility with the 2012-13 season. From Alpine: Acosta, Brusletto, Hostetter, Williams and Chriss Salbu. From Nordic: Klaesson, Niess, Ingrid Leask and Eivind Odden Solberg.
Acosta leaves UNM as a four-year All-American and six national honors -- he's just the third Lobo men's Alpiner and the sixth Lobo skier to earn national honors all four years. Acosta ranks second in Lobo skiing history for most men's All-America honors. Seven national accolades is the most of any Lobo skier, which has been done by three individuals in the history of the program.
Hostetter and Williams were both four-year NCAA participants -- Hostetter went twice with Denver, and twice with UNM after transferring prior to the 2011-12 season. Williams earned All-America honors as a freshman in 2012 for placing ninth in the slalom at NCAAs. Hostetter's highest finish of her career came this season when she placed third in the slalom at the CU/Spencer Nelson Memorial Invite on Jan. 9. Williams tallied three top-five finishes this season and placed a season-high fourth in the giant slalom at the RMISA Alpine Qualifier hosted by CU on Jan. 11.
Salbu earned four letters in his four seasons with the Lobos. He logged three top-20 finishes as a junior and placed a career-best fifth place in the slalom at UNM's home meet in 2011.
Leask tied for 19th in the 5K classic race at UNM's home meet this season -- her career best. She had two top-20 finishes in her time as a Lobo.
Solberg placed a career-best 22nd four times during the 2011-12 season and finished as high as 24th in the 10K freestyle at UNM's Invite this season.
Returning Lobos for Alpine include Courtney Altringer, Michael Bansmer, Sean Horner, Mark Miller, Juho-Pekka Penttinen, Rasanen, Robnik, and Triendl. Returning on the Nordic side are: Bratlie, Chauvet, Anita Kirvesniemi, Nord, Otto, Prestsaeter and Resaland.
Head Alpine coach Joe Downing returns for his second season with UNM. He coached the downhill skiers to tremendous success in his first year, mentoring a national champion in Rasanen and two other All-Americans in Acosta and Robnik. All together the Alpiners had six individual first-place finishes and a total of 30 top-five individual finishes in 2012-13.